How F1's young driver record tumbled, and now can't be beaten

While today's 42nd birthday of Argentinean Esteban Tuero may mean very little for a majority of Formula 1 fans, the former Minardi driver is the member of an exclusive club in sport.

How F1's young driver record tumbled, and now can't be beaten

For although nowadays being a teenager in F1 seems to be commonplace, it wasn't so long ago that eyebrows were raised when such youngsters were handed their grand prix chance.

Aged 19 years, 10 months and 14 days when he made his debut at the 1998 Australian Grand Prix, at the time Tuero was the third youngest driver to have started an F1 grand prix. Tuero remains one of only 12 drivers who started a grand prix as a teenager.

His birthday provides the perfect nudge to take a deeper look at the sequences of youngest drivers through the years.

Troy Ruttman & Jose Froilan Gonzalez

It's clear that the average age of the F1 drivers on the starting grid has gone down, but that doesn't mean that the first youngsters at the start of an F1 race were all in their thirties or more!

Even in the first decade of Formula 1 action, some of the great ones started racing in the big league at an age when many were still hoping to buy their first car.

In the 1950 season, the youngest driver on on the world championship starting grid was American Troy Ruttman. He was 20 years, 2 months and 19 days old when he made his start at the Indy 500, with the famous oval race a part of the F1 world championship in the early years.

In the all-time youngsters list, Ruttman is still ranked as the 16th youngest ever F1 starter. He would win the Indy 500 two years later and is still the youngest ever winner of that race!

The youngest driver who raced in a F1 world championship grand prix in 1950 was Argentinean Jose Froilan Gonzalez. He was 27 years, 10 months and 29 days old when he made his debut at the 1950 Monaco GP for Scuderia Achille Varzi. Gonzalez would win two grands prix in his career for Ferrari.

Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Maserati 4CLT/48 and Luigi Villoresi, Ferrari 125

Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Maserati 4CLT/48 and Luigi Villoresi, Ferrari 125

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Stirling Moss

In 1951, the record of the youngest driver (excluding the Indianapolis drivers) would go down quite significantly, as the late Stirling Moss made his debut at the 1951 Swiss Grand Prix at the age of 22 years, one month and 11 days.

It would be Moss 's only grand prix that year, but after he started 14th on the grid and finished eighth, he showed more than enough potential to prove he had a good career in him.

Raymond Mays and Stirling Moss

Raymond Mays and Stirling Moss

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Peter Collins

In 1952, the record for the youngest F1 starter would be beaten by Peter Collins, another British driver.

Collins was almost two years younger than Moss when he made his first F1 start at the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten. Collins' first race was at the age of 20 years, six months and 12 days. He started sixth on the grid, but he had to retire his HWM/Alta with a half-shaft problem when he was running 10th in the race.

Peter Collins, HWM Alta

Peter Collins, HWM Alta

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ricardo Rodriguez

Ricardo Rodriguez, Ferrari 156

Ricardo Rodriguez, Ferrari 156

Photo by: Sutton Images

Collins' record would stand for a long time, until in 1961 Ricardo Rodriguez from Mexico was the first driver in history to start an F1 grand prix under the age of 20.

Rodriguez was 19 years, six months and 27 days when he started in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Rodriguez made a strong impression from the first go, as he qualified on the front row and was in contention for a podium finish until a fuel pump problem ended his race.

His career ended in tragedy in 1962 when, at his home grand prix, his Lotus 24's right suspension failed at the Peraltada corner and he was killed instantaneously after hitting the barriers at high speed.

Mike Thackwell

Coincidentally, it was someone who was born the year that Rodriguez made his F1 debut that would break his record. Mike Thackwell was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand and was a month younger than Rodriguez (19 years, five months and 29 days) when he started his first grand prix in Canada in 1980.

He could have done it sooner but did not qualify his Arrows-Ford for the Dutch Grand Prix that ran a month earlier. Things in Canada didn't go that much better either: he started 24th on the grid and retired his Tyrrell 010 – Ford after an accident early on that stopped the race. He did not take the restart.

Thackwell would have a short unsuccessful F1 career despite having been so strong in the F2 European championships.

Mike Thackwell, Tyrrell 010

Mike Thackwell, Tyrrell 010

Photo by: David Phipps

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Sauber F1.06-BMW

Sebastian Vettel, Sauber F1.06-BMW

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel was never the youngest F1 race starter in history, but in 2006 he participated in free practice sessions for the BMW Sauber F1 team while being only 19 years, three months and 19 days old.

In FP1 at the Turkish Grand Prix, he set an eighth fastest time and in FP2 he was fastest overall.

Jaime Alguersuari

Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso STR04

Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso STR04

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

In 2009, the Red Bull Junior driver program was already in full swing. The three youngest drivers of that year's F1 grid all came from the wings company's drivers programme: Vettel, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard made his debut, aged 19 years, four months and three days, at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He would be one day younger than Lando Norris was at last year's Australian GP.

Alguersuari never finished on the podium in his 46 GP starts. He twice finished in seventh place in 2011 for Toro Rosso. But such results were never going to be good enough to convince Red Bull's motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko to promote you.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

During 2014, it was an open secret that Max Verstappen was going to make his debut for Toro Rosso in 2015. He had already done three free practice sessions for the team when he just turned 17 in 2014.

At the Australian Grand Prix in 2015, Verstappen, aged 17 years, five months and 13 days, was the youngest ever F1 driver to start a grand prix. Some public fears and critics said he was too young, but he proved them wrong.

He qualified 11th in his Toro Rosso STR10, had moved his way up in the race to be fifth at one stage, before a power unit problem would put an end to his race on lap 32.

Before the lights went out in Australia, the FIA had already put out a new rule that stipulated following that year the minimum age of an F1 driver had to be at least 18 years.

While that rule is in place it means nobody will be able to beat Verstappen's record of the youngest F1 driver in the history of the sport.

Top 25 youngest F1 drivers

 

 Age (y/m/d)

  Driver 

  Participation 

1

17 05 13 

Max Verstappen

2015-Australia 

2

18 04 25 

Lance Stroll

2017-Australia 

3

19 04 03 

Jaime Alguersuari

2009-Hungary 

4

19 04 04 

Lando Norris

2019-Australia 

5

19 05 29 

Mike Thackwell

1980-Canada 

6

19 06 27 

Ricardo Rodríguez

1961-Italy 

7

19 07 03 

Fernando Alonso

2001-Australia 

8

19 10 14 

Esteban Tuero

1998-Australia 

9

19 10 18 

Daniil Kvyat

2014-Australia 

10

19 10 20 

Chris Amon

1963-Belgium 

11

19 11 11 

Esteban Ocon

2016-Belgium 

12

19 11 14 

Sebastian Vettel

2007-USA 

13

20 01 22 

Eddie Cheever

1978-South Africa 

14

20 01 22 

Jenson Button

2000-Australia 

15

20 02 12 

Tarso Marques

1996-Brazil 

16

20 02 19 

Troy Ruttman

1950-Indianapolis 

17

20 04 26 

Sébastien Buemi

2009-Australia 

18

20 05 09 

Charles Leclerc

2018-Australia 

19

20 06 12 

Peter Collins

1952-Switzerland 

20

20 06 14 

Carlos Sainz Jr.

2015-Australia 

21

20 08 13 

Nico Rosberg

2006-Bahrain 

22

20 09 12 

Jimmy Davies

1950-Indianapolis 

23

20 09 19 

Rubens Barrichello

1993-South Africa 

24

20 09 26 

Elio de Angelis

1979-Argentina 

25

20 10 06 

Felipe Massa

2002-Australia 

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